Art History Graduate Schools in the U.S.

Factors to consider when choosing a graduate school for art history include available degrees, specialization areas, scheduling flexibility and program requirements. Students may want to select a program offering a particular specialization they are interested in, or one located in the vicinity of an art museum or institution they hope to work with.

How to Select an Art History Graduate School

Students seeking graduate-level study in art history can find programs at colleges of art and design as well as general 4-year colleges and universities. Choosing the right level and title of a degree is important in this field of study. A master's degree is typically needed to work as a museum curator or conservator, while a Ph.D. may be appropriate for students who wish to teach at the university level or conduct independent research. Different schools may offer different areas of concentration and the option for interdisciplinary studies, as well as proximity to urban areas and museums. It is also important to note that earning a doctorate takes longer than achieving a master's degree.

  • Graduate programs in art history may culminate in a Master of Arts (M.A.) or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).
  • When selecting an art history graduate school, it is important to evaluate the time commitment and schedule involved in the programs offered.
  • Some graduate programs may offer funding through research or teaching assistantships.
  • Those considering graduate programs in art history may base their decision on available concentrations such as; American art and architecture, pre-Columbian art, renaissance art and modern art.
  • A school's location and proximity to art museums and urban areas with job opportunities can be an important consideration.

Art History Graduate School Program Overviews

M.A. in Art History

An M.A. in Art History typically takes two years of full-time study, but could take up to four years of part-time study to complete. In addition to coursework requirements, students are required to complete a master's thesis. Some programs may require or provide credit for internships or practicums. A bachelor's degree and GRE scores are required for admission to an M.A. program. Master's degree students take courses such as:

  • Art criticism and theory
  • Modern and contemporary art history
  • Ancient art
  • Asian art
  • Renaissance art

Ph.D. in Art History

Ph.D. programs typically consist of coursework and research. Coursework usually takes two years to complete, includes a foreign language requirement and is followed by a qualifying exam or paper. The next 2-3 years are spent researching and writing the dissertation. Admission criteria for the programs vary, with some Ph.D. in Art History programs requiring students to already hold a master's degree in a subject directly relevant to art history and others allowing students with only bachelor's degrees to enroll. Doctoral students may complete coursework in areas such as:

  • Japanese art
  • Globalization and art
  • Visual culture and the Civil War

Top 10 Art History Graduate Schools

College/University Institution Type
Yale University 4-year, Private
Rhode Island School of Design 4-year, Private
School of the Art Institute of Chicago 4-year, Private
University of California - Los Angeles 4-year, Public
Virginia Commonwealth University 4-year, Public
California Institute of the Arts 4-year, Private
Carnegie Mellon University 4-year, Private
Cranbrook Academy of Art 4-year, Private
Maryland Institute College of Art 4-year, Private
Columbia University 4-year, Private

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